Back-to-School Shopping: No School Required

Of all the things that suck about growing up, one of the worst is missing out on the excitement of back-to-school shopping. Whether it's school supplies, new clothes, or picking out the perfect book bag, there is nothing like that August shopping trip with mom or dad.

Now that I'm a grownup I really yearn for that late summer trip to the mall with my parents and little brother. (He's 5'10 and I'm 4'10, so "younger" brother, I guess.) Even though I really don't *need* any new shoes, or dresses, or laptop bags (I have three. Oops.) I spent an alarming amount of time shopping online this week, anyway. I turned the air conditioning down to 65, made myself a big cup of hot chocolate--I grew up in New York, remember? School shopping involved anticipation of cold--and sat down at my computer to revel in school shopping nostalgia.

Bags & Backpacks

Perhaps the single most important purchase of the season, because you are going to carry it every single day, the backpack or book bag is your daily accessory. If you were a nerd like me, you probably carried more than one. During my junior and senior years of high school I carried a huge L.L. Bean backpack and a Lands' End canvas tote--every day--because I was in tons of AP classes, plus yearbook, plus sports, plus student government. How did I find time to drink all that beer?

A new bag is a great way to feel like a kid again. Maybe I need a fourth.

Texi: I got word of this company through Houston Tidbits, who featured Texi bags in an email newsletter. The company founders have Texas and Houston ties who are now living in New York City. The Canvas Leather tote is $185 and the All-Leather Shopper is $225. A very grown-up, stylish upgrade from a nylon backpack. • Lands' End: These days the Lands' End Canvas Totes ($27.50-$42.50) come with zip-tops, for security. I beat the hell out of mine back in the '90s and I swear my mom is still using it. Go for the monogram--so prep. • FEED for Target Men's Messenger Bag ($24): FEED is a charity created by Lauren Bush Lauren; purchase of this bag will provide about 24 meals for children and families across America.

School Supplies

Am I the only person in the world (besides my mom) who loves shopping for school and/or office supplies? New pens and stationary and even paper clips make me smile. Yeah, I'm weird.

Summer Camp Pencil Case/Makeup Bag (162Pens, Etsy; $18): Truly adorable canvas case great for pencils, if you're a student, or makeup, if you're not. If someone wants to buy this for me, send it care of Houston Press offices. Thanks! • Thornwillow Creative Suite Portfolio & Journals ($125, thornwillow.com): For a budding writer or artist, this would make a really special back-to-school gift. Or, if my mom is reading this, Christmas present for a freelance writer who is in her pajamas at one in the afternoon. • Wirebound Top-Opening Notebooks ($2.50, officedepot.com): For the listmakers out there, these are indispensable. Non-listmakers, there is simply no hope for you.


You can buy new school clothes, or buy clothes that just remind you of going back to school. For me, sweaters and jeans, scarves and a new winter coat scream "school is starting!"--but I'm a Yankee. Today I'd die of heat stroke if that was my back-to-school wardrobe, but hey, that's just geography, right?

Theory 'Donelly' Blazer in Wallner Stretch Cotton ($475, theory.com): In lieu of a winter coat, how about a blazer that looks as sharp with jeans as it does with pants? Clean, classic wardrobe staple that is a true investment piece. • Varsity Cardigan ($78, gant.com): 100 percent wool in classic navy and cream, this is an old-school sweater. Only available in men's extra-large, but truly covetable; I'll be on the lookout for something similar in my size. • Converse Chuck Taylor Low-Tops (start at $50, converse.com): There just is no cooler shoe in all the world, and the low tops look awesome whether you're 15 or 85.

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